Archive for category: Religion (Page 2)

Praying for Unity

29 Mar
March 29, 2016

3-25

During the month of March my church is doing a 31 days of prayer challenge. The other pastors, myself, and some of the key leadership all contributed short devotionals to form a booklet we’ve been giving to our congregation and emailing daily devotionals from. This is one I wrote for last Friday, the 25th:

Unity
Philippians 1:27 (NLT)

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

Reflection

It’s amazing when you stop to think about it. The Christian believers in Philippi were experiencing persecution and suffering in a way that we will most likely never fully understand. And yet, over and over throughout his letter to them, Paul drives home the importance of unity. It’s almost as if he is saying, yes, the suffering, the death, the torture – that’s all hard, but the real challenge is putting aside our personal desires and being united!

The easy way out when we disagree, when we are uncomfortable, when we do not get what we want, is to leave. To find a church or other Christians who do line up with us … until they don’t. But on those incredible occasions where a body of believers can truly stand together with one spirit and purpose, it is a thing of beauty! Mother Teresa once said, “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” God has placed us together for a reason. Our unique gifting and collection of passions combined together in the unity He intends can accomplish great things.

Prayer

Lord, we ask for unity. We ask for the wisdom and ability to put aside differences and focus on the calling You have given us as a church. Amen.

The Landmark Movement

28 Mar
March 28, 2016

History-of-Church

This is a research paper I wrote a couple weeks ago for a Baptist History class I just finished; it’s an interesting moment of history in the Baptist Church in America.

THE LANDMARK MOVEMENT

Introduction

The Landmark Movement was an overreaction to the Campbellite controversy, claiming direct Baptist succession through the ages and an exclusive hold on the church, however the movement was based on faulty assumptions instead of actual historical evidence.

The movement erupted in the Southern Baptist Church in the mid-nineteenth century.[1] While its overall impact in the church had varying degrees of influence, it did not spread to northern churches.[2] It began as an overreaction to another extreme theological view, with leaders that had a penchant for controversy but were powerful communicators and effective at convincing others of their views through print and speaking. However, in their zeal they came to theological conclusions and opinions and then tried to find the supporting evidence rather than examining the evidence and letting it shape their theology. This paper will demonstrate this by briefly explaining the Campbellite controversy, recording the primary influences in forming the Landmark Movement and how they did so, the core beliefs of the Landmark Movement, and the resulting controversy and response from the Southern Baptist Church.

The Campbellite Controversy

Originally from a Presbyterian background, Alexander Campbell and his father, joined the Baptist church in 1812.[3] However, while they accepted immersion, it was not long before they were pushing for reforms in the Baptist church as a whole on issues of Old Testament authority, the nature of saving faith, the role of baptism in salvation, and other core beliefs. In addition, they opposed missionary societies, titles, and salaries for ministers.[4] Essentially, they wanted to remove any human traditions from church and bring it back to a “primitive order.”[5] By this they meant core practices found only in scripture.

Over time, his teachings split the denomination, with hundreds of churches leaving with him to form the Church of Christ denomination.[6] His ideas were able to catch momentum because of the combination of a simple approach to scripture and resentment from churches distant from the main offices of the denomination feeling unrepresented or left out. This was the first major internal division for the Baptist church, out of which provided the groundwork for the Landmark Movement’s values of extreme core Baptist theology and traditions being embraced.[7]

The Landmark Movement

With the trauma of a denominational split and the uncertainty cast on Baptist traditions and heritage, the climate in the aftermath of the Campbellite controversy fostered a search for “ecclesiastical certainty.”[8] This climate was ripe for the extreme forms of Baptist theology that were developed in the Landmark Movement. Ultimately, the goal of the Landmark Movement was to establish the Southern Baptist Church as the one true church.[9]

Leaders in the Movement

There were three main leaders in the formation of the movement, referred to by their followers as the “Great Triumvirate”; James Madison Pendleton, Amos Cooper Dayton, and James R. Graves.[10] Of the three, Graves was the primary voice of the movement, providing the initial spark to its formation, and driving it throughout the years.

James R. Graves

Graves was born in Vermont, was converted at the age of 15 and then baptized in the Baptist church there.[11] While he did not have any formal education, he was hired as a principal for academies in Ohio and Kentucky, and over time demonstrated such a natural talent that a Baptist church in Kentucky licensed him to preach. He committed himself to a self-taught program of study to prepare for the pastorate, covering modern languages and the Bible, and was eventually ordained at the age of 24.[12]

The church he was a part of, and that eventually ordained him, was pastored by Ryland Dillard, a man passionately opposed to the Campbellite teachings and deeply concerned about its spread through his region.[13] From there, Graves moved back to Ohio where he was invited to preach at a church led by what he would later call “a brilliant infidel.” The story goes that with just one sermon, Graves was able to turn the congregation from the Campbellite teaching and would spend the rest of his life committed to protecting others from the Campbellite “infidels.”[14]

From there, Graves moved to Nashville to become a teacher. During that time he also accepted a pastorate, but it was short lived as he became the assistant editor of the Tennessee Baptist in 1846.[15] Two years later, Graves became the editor, a role he would hold for over forty years.[16] Between his influence through the Tennessee Baptist, and his powerful oratory skills, Graves was able to powerfully build momentum and drive the Landmark Movement.

Amos Cooper Dayton

In 1813 Dayton was born in New Jersey to a Presbyterian family, and as such was baptized six months later.[17] He studied medicine in New York City and graduated at 22 years old, however he only practiced medicine for a short period before transitioning to dentistry. During his early twenties, Dayton had a period of doubts, even embracing universalism briefly, but after a severe illness that would impact him the rest of his life, he found himself convinced that “the Bible is of God, and universalism of the Devil.”[18]

Dayton remained a Presbyterian until 1852 when some of the books he was reading finally convinced him of the failings of his current denomination and convinced him to become Baptist. He was baptized and a week later preached his first sermon, eventually becoming ordained in the Baptist church. He began writing for the Tennessee Baptist in 1853 and eventually became an associate editor working with Graves in 1858.[19] While his favorite writing style was fiction, a genre he excelled in, he was most known for the 1858 book Pedobaptist and Campbellite Immersions, in which he powerfully attacked the Campbellite movement and bolstered the credibility of the Landmark Movement.[20]

During his years of association with Graves and his involvement in the Landmark Movement, Dayton was a powerful writer. Because of his connections with the Bible Board where he served first as an agent and then the corresponding secretary, he quickly became known in the Southern Baptist denomination.[21] He eventually became the Southern Baptist Church Sunday School Union president, and then transitioned to the secretary position.[22] Through his prominence, he was positioned well to be part of the trio of leaders in the Landmark Movement.

James Madison Pendleton

Much of Pendleton’s fame came through his crusading to abolish slavery.[23] He was born in 1811 in Virginia, but grew up in Kentucky on a farm. At 26 he took his first pastorate in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where he would remain for twenty years. He was known for not just reaching out to the free in his region, but evangelizing the slaves as well. His speaking style was that of reason, not emotionalism, and was an effective communicator with a strong hold on his material.[24] He was powerful in debates, and a strong writer, with each of these skills contributing to his rise in influence. By the 1840’s he was writing for several of the Baptist papers, even ones who disagreed with him but appreciated his ability.

While he never embraced the Landmark Movement to the degree of Graves or Dayton, he did become a compelling advocate for it in the areas he agreed with. His tracts urging Baptist churches to stop participating in pulpit exchanges with non-Baptist churches, and his speaking quickly rose in popularity, causing Graves to reach out to him and begin working together.[25] His greatest influence came through his 1867 book, Church Manual, a guide on Baptist life based on Landmark values, a work that has had a lasting influence in the Southern Baptist Church.[26]

The Landmark Movement’s Tenets

With the Southern Baptist Church still reeling from the Campbellite controversy and its efforts to change the core beliefs of the Baptist church, there was a hunger for the call to a stricter, more defined Baptist theology. Graves led the charge in this, developing much of the Landmark theology, and using his resources and connections through his paper, Dayton, Pendleton, and others to rapidly spread throughout the church, particularly in the Southwest.[27] Most did not think of it as a new movement, but rather a return to what they thought were core Baptist beliefs. However, in actuality, the tenets of Landmarkism were extreme versions of Baptist tradition, loaded with danger for the church.

The name itself, the Landmark Movement, was based on two Old Testament passages; Proverbs 22:28 and Job 24:2, both of which in the King James Version caution against removing the old landmarks set by those who went before.[28] With their intent of preserving historic Baptist practices and theology, the name was a natural one.

Graves wrote in his booklet, Old Landmarkism: What Is It?, that for him the issue began to crystalize on the day his mother and sister were baptized by a pastor who also performed infant baptisms. He wrote of his frustration that over the course of one day, this man baptized believers and infants, immersing some, pouring water over others. He writes, “Those different acts for ‘one baptism’ made an indelible impression,” one that was further magnified by the pastor’s seeming disinterest in the whole process.[29] For years he wrestled with these and other issues he saw as problems in the Baptist church, culminating in him, as editor of the Tennessee Baptist presenting to the Southern Baptist Convention in 1851 these five questions[30]:

1st. Can Baptists, consistently with their principles or the Scriptures, recognize those societies not organized according to the pattern of the Jerusalem church, but possessing different governments, different officers, a different class of members, different ordinances, doctrines and practices, as churches of Christ?

2d. Ought they to be called gospel churches, or churches in a religious sense?

3d. Can we consistently recognize the ministers of such irregular and unscriptural bodies as gospel ministers?

4th. Is it not virtually recognizing them as official ministers to invite them into our pulpits, or by any other act that would or could be construed into such a recognition?

5th. Can we consistently address as brethren those professing Christianity, who not only have not the doctrine of Christ and walk not according to his commandments, but are arrayed in direct and bitter opposition to them?

These questions, and the resulting answers came to be known as the Cotton Grove Resolutions. Ultimately, under Grave’s leadership, the tenets of the Landmark Movement came to be[31]:

  1. Baptist churches are the only true churches in the world. The Landmark Movement was highly exclusive and viewed the Baptist church as the only church bearing all the marks of a true church. As such, they believed that the church Christ founded was a Baptist church, regardless of its name at the time. A further ramification of this belief was the conviction that only Baptist churches have ministers, ordinances, and preaching recognized as authoritative and true in God’s eyes.
  2. The true church is a local, visible institution. Landmarkism rejects the idea of an invisible, or universal church. Each church is to be self-governing under Christ, maintaining its own discipline.
  3. The churches and the kingdom of God are coterminous. According to Graves, “church” and “kingdom” are synonymous terms in the Bible. The true churches together form the kingdom, much like the independent states form the United States of America. One of the ramifications of this belief was that if only Baptist churches are true churches, and the kingdom of God is comprised of Baptist churches, then to be saved, or in the Kingdom, one must be Baptist – a point that Graves did deny was his intent.
  4. There must be no “pulpit affiliation” with non-Baptists. Up until this point, there had been a lot of cross-denominational teamwork and pulpit swaps. Revivals were a popular tool, and often times pastors from different denominations would take turns teaching. However, because Baptist churches were viewed as the only true churches, these preachers from other denominations were viewed as leaders of secular organizations, with unrecognized ordinations, and therefore should not be allowed to have the pulpit in a Baptist church.
  5. Only a church can do churchly acts. This specifically addressed the doctrines and practices surrounding baptism, communion, preaching, and other church traditions. Because Baptist churches were viewed as the only true church, as a result, baptisms, communion, and other practices were no longer recognized as valid from other churches. This even extended to missionaries; the tasks missionaries engaged in were to be exclusively performed by the Baptist church, and as a result proponents of the Landmark Movement attempted to dismantle the foreign missions program.
  6. Baptist churches have always existed in every age by an unbroken historical succession. Graves wrote in his booklet, Old Landmarkism: What Is It?, that while they utterly and complete reject the idea of apostolic succession, they are convinced that the true church, the Baptist church, “has had a continuous existence” since Christ founded it “in the days of John the Baptist.”[32] This was a popular teaching point, because it not only validated the traditional Baptist views and practices, it created a strong sense of superiority and accomplishment.

Controversy

In the late 1850’s, tensions began to explode as Graves continued to push further into the authority and established leadership structures of the Southern Baptist Church. In 1858, Graves established a Southern Baptist Sunday School Union in an attempt to undermine and replace the existing Southern Baptist Publication Society. For some time Graves had criticized the SBPS due to disagreements with its policies, literature, and leadership.[33] Graves’ pastor, Howell, however, disagreed with him and opposed his efforts to take control, triggering a series of personal attacks by Graves at Howell. Over the course of the next year, Graves, and 46 others of his followers, were brought through church discipline and removed from that church.

In 1859, Graves attempted at the Southern Baptist Convention to dismantle the Foreign Mission Board and instead place the control of missions into the individual churches. This created significant tension at the convention, and while the Board was ultimately protected, they did allow for individual churches to run their own missions if that was their conviction.[34] One of the results of this, however, was a growing sense of concern that the Landmark Movement encouraged division and a “rise of denominationalism.”[35] Rather than building the Southern Baptist Church, it was instead distancing them from one another.

In another move that frustrated Graves and his intent to publically confront Howell at the convention, rather than the convention embracing and celebrating Graves’ rise in influence, it instead made Howell the president. While Howell did ultimately step down in an effort to bring unity between the Southern Baptist churches that stood on opposite sides of some of these issues, it was still an undeniable setback to the Landmark Movement.

Between these setbacks, and then the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the Landmark Movement lost a lot of its momentum. Tull writes that “the rising tide of Landmarkism was arrested and subdued by the Civil War.”[36] Much of the rebuilding in the church after the war in the Southern states was carried out by Baptists who were not a part of the Landmark movement, further quelling their influence as others rose to prominence. Dayton passed away towards the end of the war in 1865, and Pendleton moved to Pennsylvania that same year where he would spend the rest of his ministry years.[37]

Overall, Southern Baptists had grown tired of the constant controversy stirred up by Graves and the Landmark Movement, and were increasingly frustrated with the frequent attacks against their leaders. With only Graves remaining to spearhead the movement, and his influence no longer what it once was, the momentum was gone. Adding to that, McBeth writes, “As the true nature and spirit of Landmarkism became clearer, it lost much of its appeal.”[38] While all of these factors combined to see the Landmark Movement fade in its presence, its influence has not completely disappeared. Some of the beliefs and attitudes continue to this day in some Southern Baptist Churches, but mostly in the form of a general aloofness and reluctance to work with other denominations, and an unwillingness to recognize “alien” baptisms.[39] For the most part, by the time Graves passed away, almost all recognized the faults in Landmarkism’s tenets, with few being able to hold to more than just portions of the beliefs.

Conclusion

The Landmark Movement was initiated and led by individuals who loved God and desired to pursue His kingdom. They were passionate about scripture, and in light of the Campbellite Controversy, it is clear that there was a hunger for a return to the hallmarks, or landmarks, of Baptist faith. While Dayton and Pendleton each played roles in leading the Landmark Movement, it is clear that their influence was under the leadership of Graves.

At its core, the Landmark Movement was a flawed theological system based on an incorrect approach to theology. Graves arrived at his opinions and beliefs based on Baptist tradition, defined his views and then interpreted scripture based on those ideas. The Baptist church, in the span of history, was still relatively young during his time – yet because of his conviction that it is the one true church, he interpreted the previous 1800 years of church history based on that opinion rather than an appropriate historical approach, interpreting records and scripture through his lens. The correct approach would have been to instead try to place himself in the shoes of the New Testament Christian, understanding their culture, their context, and then interpret scriptures as best he could in the way that they would have.

One has to wonder if Graves, clearly a brilliant man, was in some ways limited in his ability to appropriately approach and handle these topics by the limits of his own education. On the one hand, his talents and ability were recognized early on, but at the same time he created his course of self-guided education. Did he unintentionally leave out areas of study that would have given him a more balanced approach? Or did his accomplishments and intelligence create an overconfidence resulting in an arrogance that not only saw his understanding of the church and scripture as correct, but as the one true understanding? Much like the misguided Pharisees and other religious leaders of the gospels?

In conclusion, it is not surprising that the Movement eventually collapsed on itself. While on a surface level it initially appeared to be a Baptist movement, it did not take long for Christians to recognize the faulty assumptions and flawed logic that undergirded the movement, and ultimately, its diversion from Baptist tradition, much like the Campbellite movement before it.

Bibliography

Askew, Thomas A., and Richard V. Pierard. The American Church Experience: A Concise History. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004.

Early, Joseph Jr. Readings in Baptist History: Four Centuries of Selected Documents. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2008.

Hall, C. W. “When orphans became heirs: J.R. Graves and the Landmark Baptists.” Baptist History and Heritage, 37(1) (2002): 112+.

Howard, Victor B. “James Madison Pendleton: A Southern Crusader Against Slavery”. The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 74.3 (1976): 192–215.

McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage. Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1987.

McBeth, H. Leon. A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 1990.

Patterson, James A. “James Robinson Graves: History in the Service of Ecclesiology.” Baptist History and Heritage 44.1 (2009): 72-83.

Taulman, James E. “The Life and Writings of Amos Cooper Dayton (1813-1865).” Baptist History and Heritage, 10, no. 1 (January 1975): 36-43.

Torbet, Robert G. History of the Baptists. 3 ed. Valley Forge, PA: Judson Pr, 1978.

Tull, James E. “The Landmark Movement: An Historical and Theological Appraisal.” Baptist History and Heritage, 10, no. 1 (January 1975): 3-18.

Footnotes

[1] Robert G. Torbet, History of the Baptists, 3 ed. (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Pr, 1978), 281.

[2] Thomas A. Askew, The American Church Experience: a Concise History (Grand Rapids: Wipf & Stock Pub, 2008), 187.

[3] H. Leon McBeth, A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 1990), 241.

[4] Ibid.

[5] H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1987), 375.

[6] McBeth, A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage, 241.

[7] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 376.

[8] C. W. Hall, “When Orphans Became Heirs: J.R. Graves and the Landmark Baptists,” Baptist History and Heritage, 37(1) (2002): 112.

[9] Ibid.

[10] James E. Tull, “The Landmark Movement: An Historical and Theological Appraisal,” Baptist History and Heritage, 10, no. 1 (January 1975): 5.

[11] James A Patterson, “James Robinson Graves: History in the Service of Ecclesiology,” Baptist History and Heritage, 44.1 (2009): 73.

[12] Ibid, 74.

[13] Hall, “When Orphans Became Heirs: J.R. Graves and the Landmark Baptists,” 112.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Patterson, “James Robinson Graves: History in the Service of Ecclesiology,” 74.

[16] Ibid.

[17] James E. Taulman, “The Life and Writings of Amos Cooper Dayton (1813-1865),” Baptist History and Heritage, 10, no. 1 (January 1975): 36.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Tull, “The Landmark Movement: An Historical and Theological Appraisal,” 5.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Taulman, “The Life and Writings of Amos Cooper Dayton (1813-1865),” 38.

[22] Ibid, 39.

[23] Victor B. Howard, “James Madison Pendleton: A Southern Crusader Against Slavery,” The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, 74.3 (1976): 192.

[24] Ibid, 193.

[25] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 449.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid, 446.

[28] Tull, “The Landmark Movement: An Historical and Theological Appraisal,” 3.

[29] Joseph Early Jr., Readings in Baptist History: Four Centuries of Selected Documents (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2008), 116.

[30] Ibid, 117.

[31] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 450-452.

[32] Early, Readings in Baptist History: Four Centuries of Selected Documents, 122.

[33] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 456.

[34] Tull, “The Landmark Movement: An Historical and Theological Appraisal,” 13.

[35] Torbet, History of the Baptists, 282.

[36] Tull, “The Landmark Movement: An Historical and Theological Appraisal,” 13.

[37] Ibid, 14.

[38] McBeth, The Baptist Heritage, 457.

[39] Tull, “The Landmark Movement: An Historical and Theological Appraisal,” 17.

Praying for Church Finances

25 Mar
March 25, 2016

3-23

In preparation for Easter, my church is doing a 31 days of prayer challenge. The other pastors, myself, and some of the key leadership all contributed short devotionals to form a booklet we’ve been giving to our congregation and emailing daily devotionals from. This is one I wrote for last Wednesday, the 23rd:

Church Finances
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (NLT)

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives
cheerfully.

Reflection

Years ago I attended a rally where evangelist Luis Palau, the Billy Graham of our time, was speaking. When it came time for the offering, he asked everyone to stand, reach forward, take the wallet from the back pocket of the person in front of them, “and give like you have always dreamed of giving!” I loved it!

And isn’t that something we long for? To be able to worship God with our giving without distraction? Without worry? To be generous with what He has given us for His Kingdom? God calls us to give, not because of church heating bills or curriculum needs, but as a way of demonstrating love to Him. When we sacrifice, it reflects a heart of worship. Our joy in giving is seen through a church that is able to meet the needs of our region, to live out the calling God has given each of us as a body both locally and globally.

Prayer

Lord, we pray for the finances of our church. We ask that You would continue to provide the resources needed to fund the ministries to which You have called us. Help us to honor our commitments, continue to grow in our impact, and most importantly, give glory to You with cheerful hearts as we give. Amen.

Postmodernism Apologetics Paper

24 Mar
March 24, 2016

postmodernism small

A paper I wrote a couple weeks ago for my apologetics class on postmodernism and a defense of Christianity …

POSTMODERNISM

Introduction

Postmodernism, the view that all truth is relative, is a widely accepted yet flawed belief system. Lyotard defined postmodernism as “incredulity toward metanarratives.”[1] In other words, incredulity towards the idea of defined reality, history, truth, or beliefs. This paper will demonstrate both the internal and external contradictions with the postmodern belief system, as well as the contrasting ideals of the Christian worldview, ultimately demonstrating Christianity to be the superior worldview.

This will be accomplished by giving an overview of Postmodernism, with observations from some of its respected voices; Derrida, Kant, and Lyotard, as well as contrasting opinions from Christian apologists. Through this examination, it will become apparent that the foundations of Postmodernism, and the question of relativity, ultimately collapse and cannot support the fundamental claims of the worldview, ultimately demonstrating that Christianity is the only option for a functional worldview.

Summary of Postmodernism

James Sire describes postmodernism this way; “No longer is there a single story, a metanarrative (in our terms a worldview), that holds Western culture together.”[2] In generations past, typically each culture had its own metanarrative, but the postmodernism approach changes that to recognize that many people, groups, and cultures have their own narratives, each equal with the others, and none having dominance or greater authority. One of the challenges with postmodernism is defining it; at different times the worldview is defined in different ways. Heath White explains that it is “not a theory or a creed: it is more like an attitude or a way of looking at things.”[3] There are weaknesses and strengths, like most worldviews. The following summary of Postmodernism’s tenets is based on Groothuis’ criteria for worldview evaluation:[4]

  1. Ultimate Reality: With regards to the question of ultimate reality, Kant wrote that “Our age is the age of criticism, to which everything must be subjected. The sacredness of religion, and the authority of legislation, are by many regarded as grounds of exemption from the examination of this tribunal. But, if they are exempted, they become the subjects of just suspicion, and cannot lay claim to sincere respect, which reason accords only to that which has stood the test of a free and public examination.”[5] Everything is open to be questioned, with the recognition that understanding is shaped by culture and context. As such, it is impossible for any one person to be able to claim to have an exclusive hold on reality since they are unable to get past their own social constructions.

Derrida is one of the primary voices of postmodernism, although he labeled himself a deconstructionist. He wrote that “In what one calls the real life of these existences ‘of flesh and bone,’ beyond and behind what one believes can be circumscribed as Rousseau’s text, there has never been anything but writing.”[6] By this he means that each individual interprets reality through their own lens of language.

  1. Source of Morality: Postmodernism claims there is no one source of morality, instead there are endlessly differing interpretations of what morality is. Derrida argues that the pursuit of being ethical in fact makes people irresponsible, a temptation to fall into the fallacy (according to him) of believing there is an absolute.[7] As such, morality is fluid, dependent on culture. Sire suggests that Foucault, perhaps the most radical of the postmodern voices, would claim that “the greatest good is an individual’s freedom to maximize pleasure.”[8]
  2. Nature of Humanity: While humans are born with certain aptitudes or potential, the nature of humanity is socially determined. Taken one step further, there is no such thing as human nature, it is a social construct. Foucault writes,

“To all those who still wish to talk about man, about his reign or his liberation, to all those who still ask themselves questions about what man is in his essence, to all those who wish to take him as their starting-point in their attempts to reach the truth, to all those who, on the other hand, refer all knowledge back to the truths of man himself, to all those who refuse to formalize without anthropologizing, who refuse to mythologize without demystifying, who refuse to think without immediately thinking that it is a man who is thinking, to all these warped and twisted forms of reflection we can answer only with a philosophical laugh – which means, to a certain extent, a silent one.”[9]

  1. Spiritual Liberation Attained By: This type of liberation is acquired by recognizing that there is no one truth, but feeling free to pursue spirituality that gives the individual moral satisfaction. Christian Smith calls this “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” a belief system that essentially teaches happiness comes from being a good, moral person.[10] He contends that not only is this a popular approach in general, it has invaded the Christian church to a significant degree as well.
  2. Ultimate Authority: There is no one ultimate authority; much like the impossibility to know an ultimate reality, is impossible to know an ultimate authority. At the same time, the various narratives or belief systems are viewed as attempts at gaining power. While according to postmodernism there is no purely objective knowledge or truth, the collection of knowledge and stories does give power or authority. However, it is considered oppressive if others’ knowledge or metanarratives give them the power; ultimate authority for oneself should reside within the individual based on their own knowledge.[11]
  3. History and the Afterlife: History cannot be fully known as those who recorded it did so through their own culture and biased lens. While it may be possible to be able to have a strong idea of what happened, it cannot be known with certainty because of the cultural bias of those who recorded it. Likewise, because it is impossible to know anything with complete certainty, it is not possible to know for sure if there is an afterlife or what it would be like. In this spirit, Kant writes that all “our knowledge begins with experience,” however, because experience is shaped by other factors, it is limited.[12]

Evaluation of Postmodernism

For the purposes of evaluating postmodernism, the points focused on below are the criteria provided by Groothuis for test and evaluating worldviews. His intent is that they are universally applicable criteria, however some critics feel that the extreme differences between varying worldviews make it impossible to have one set of evaluating criteria.[13]

  1. Does it explains what it ought to explain? This is one of postmodernism’s great weaknesses. Even in researching this paper it was difficult to find a solid definition of the worldview. Many authors stressed its intangible qualities, and constantly shifting definitions. What the proponents of postmodernism do attempt to explain is with the caveat that it could be wrong, and that it is rooted in culture and social constructs that change over time and location. With a value system based in relativity and the lack of absolutes, definitions and explanations become difficult to achieve. White writes, “postmoderns kept the modern distrust of authority but lost their trust in reason and have found nothing to replace it.”[14]
  2. Does it have internal logical consistency? This is a challenge for postmodernism and ultimately, one of the first places critics go to in their attacks. With one of its basic tenets being that truth is relative or not truly knowable, that very belief cannot be considered dependable or true for all. As Sire puts it, “the rejection of all metanarratives is itself a metanarrative.”[15] This is not just a criticism from Christian apologists, the faulty logic is also a reoccurring challenge from secular circles. Their frustration is that postmodern relativism “eliminates universal human rights, contributes to pseudoscience … undermines moral and rational discourse … makes communication between those of differing worldviews impossible, and so on.”[16]
  3. Does it have coherence? Postmodernism is largely consistent in maintaining its value of truth as relative, however, there is little to no coherence in the “truths” that are believed and accepted. With each individual forming their own narrative, contradictions abound. Even within individual belief systems there are often times incoherent combinations of beliefs. Having said that, though, postmodernism does have one strength in particular; an acknowledgement of mankind’s imperfect ability to form truth and reality. While the wide acceptance of relativity has it failings, embedded in that belief is a humble recognition of man’s imperfections.
  4. Does it have intellectual and cultural fecundity? Postmodernism on its surface encourages creativity and productivity as it encourages each person to explore and pursue their truth. However, it has resulted in a spiritual laziness; Christian Smith describes in his descriptions of “moralistic therapeutic deism” notes how half of the religious population in America believe it is okay to mix religious beliefs with little thought to their compatibility.[17] Rather than being the freeing experience expected, accepting all truths as valid strips the world of meaning and value.
  5. Is it simpler to explain? Simpler belief systems are preferable to unnecessarily complex ones. Postmodernism actually comes across initially as simple to explain; truth is relative. It is only as people begin to dive into the ramifications of it that it becomes more complex and contradictory. As previously mentioned, even defining postmodernism has many scholars challenged to do so because of its constantly changing nature. Sire points out that “postmodernism is in flux, as is postmodernism’s take on the significance of human history, including its own history,” and as such even the core people committed to the belief system are in flux as well.[18]

Christian Alternative

Following the same criteria as the previous section, here is an evaluation of the Christian worldview:

  1. Does it explain what it ought to explain? Christianity claims to contain all that is required to pursue it within the scriptures. While there are pieces that are difficult to understand, the core tenets of salvation and pursuit of Christ are able to be explained. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 makes exactly this point, driving home the value that scriptures have been given so that followers of God can be prepared for every opportunity.
  2. Is there internal logical consistency? For a book written over the span of 1500 years, in multiple languages, with dozens of different writers from all walks of life, it is incredible how unified the message of scripture is. While on the surface there may be some contradictions in the scriptures, with further study and understanding of the culture and understandings of those who wrote the scripture the contradictions are able to be removed. McDowell writes that “allegations of error in the Bible are usually based on a failure to recognize basic principles of interpreting ancient literature.”[19]
  3. Does it have coherence? This question is a little more challenging. Abstractly, yes, Christianity has coherence. The belief that God is all powerful and defines truth requires that that reality remain unchanging and unified throughout all of time. As Dr. Smith points out, “Far from being limited to a particular aspect of life, the biblical worldview is comprehensive.”[20] However, as imperfect beings, humans have interpreted the meanings of scriptures in different ways, formed different denominations, wasted resources and energy on infighting and disagreements, all of which contributes to an image of lacking coherence.
  4. Does it have intellectual and cultural fecundity? While postmodernism claims to have achieved this, as previously stated it actually results in spiritual laziness. Christianity, on the other hand, through its admonitions to search out the scriptures, to pursue Christlikeness, to do our best for God’s honor, and to not just blindly accept the teaching of those around us, does an incredible job of challenging its adherents to intellectual and cultural fecundity. Groothuis affirmed the intellectual credibility of the Christian worldview when he wrote, “The universe as a contingent and designed system is best explained by a noncontingent Creator, who depends on nothing outside Himself (Acts 17:25) and who created the universe to operate in various goal-related ways. Living systems presuppose intelligent design and cannot be explained on the basis of merely chance and natural laws.”[21]
  5. Is it simpler to explain? Simpler belief systems are preferable to unnecessarily complex ones. Where at first glance postmodernism seems simple and then upon closer examination is revealed to be complex, Christianity is the opposite. Many look at the churches, their practices and traditions, hear older translations in outdated English, and assume that Christianity must be complex. Instead, on closer examination, Christianity is revealed to be incredibly simple to explain; at its core it is about creation, fall, and redemption.[22]

Defense of Christianity

In a defense of Christianity with regards to the postmodern worldview, a strong starting point is on the issue of truth. While postmoderns claim truth is relative, that there is not a defined metanarrative from which truth comes from, even in so claiming they have contradicted themselves. By virtue of believing that that truth; that all truth is relative, they have embraced a metanarrative that defines and shapes their beliefs. Aristotle once argued that truth relies on a tangible thing; it cannot be based on nothing. He famously wrote, “To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true; so that he who says of anything that it is, or that it is not, will say either what is true or what is false; but neither what is nor what is not is said to be or not to be.”[23]

What Aristotle so eloquently communicates is this: a thing is either true or false. It cannot be true for one person, but false for another. Different truths cannot contradict each other, logic requires that one admits conflicting truths reveal at least one, if not both, to be untrue. Postmodernism is correct on one front; man is shaped and influenced by his context, his culture, the bias and lens that have been shaped in his perspective over the course of a lifetime; it is why man only holds pieces of the truth.

If mankind cannot possess a complete truth, who is able to know it? Is it not something that requires the existence of a God? A being perfect and powerful enough to both know and understand all truth? Tied to truth is the issue of objective morals. While relativism would suggest that morals vary from person to person, suggesting ultimately that evil does not exist, in reality this is an easier topic to defend. In his core, man knows good and evil. God claims throughout scripture to have written His law on the heart (Jer. 31:33, Heb. 8:10, Rom. 2:15). This is revealed not in man’s actions, but in his wants; he does not want to be mocked, he does not want to be robbed, he does not want to be attacked, he does not want to be cheated – he does not want these things because in his heart he knows they are wrong and he does not want them to happen to him.

Objective moral values do exist, whether or not individuals are willing to acknowledge them. Groothuis notes the “goodness to deity” argument in his book[24];

  1. If a personal God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values do exist.
  3. Therefore, a personal God exists.

Perhaps mankind’s fascination with, and hunger for, truth is rooted in its creation. Scripture claims that man is “made in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27), and while sin corrupts and renders man imperfect, his desires are still impacted by that holy lineage. Isaiah 65:16 calls God “the God of truth,” a God mankind is designed to be in relationship with, and created in the image of – of course truth is a center point of man’s philosophical discussions. John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Scripture claims to have the exclusive hold on truth; the Christian church is called “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

Moral truth exists, therefore God exists. Since God exists, and both warrants and claims a hold on truth, then the scriptures must be dependable. When Christ claims in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” it must reflect an exclusive reality regarding man’s restoration to his Creator. John 3:16 summarizes how that is accomplished; “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” By placing one’s trust and faith in the saving power of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, eternal life and restoration is achievable.

Conclusion

In modern society, postmodernism has natural appeal. The world is more connected than any time in history, with people throughout the planet being connected to and with people of different belief systems and cultural biases to a degree never before seen. Moral relativism paves the way in theory for all these differing backgrounds to coexist without diminishing one another. But as demonstrated in this paper, its foundations quickly collapse under the contradictions and fallacies. Instead, through the very truth postmodernism tries to redefine, it is revealed to be an imperfect worldview and points to a moral truth that ultimately proves the existence of God.

Christianity is not just a superior worldview, it is proven time and again to be the only functional worldview.

Bibliography

Derrida, Jacques. Of Grammatology. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ Pr, 1976.

Derrida, Jacques. The Gift of Death: and, Literature in Secret. 2nd ed. Chicago, IL: University Of Chicago Press, 2008.

Foucault, Michel. The Order of Things: an Archaeology of the Human Sciences. Reissue ed. New York: Vintage, 1994.

Groothuis, Douglas. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: IVP Academic, 2011.

Groothuis, Douglas. Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernism. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2000.

Kant, Immanuel. The Critique of Pure Reason. Amazon Kindle, 2011.

Lyotard, Jean-François. The Postmodern Condition: A Report On Knowledge. Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press, 1984.

McDowell, Josh. The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1999.

Sire, James W. The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog. 5th ed. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009.

Smith, C. Fred. Developing a Biblical Worldview: Seeing Things God’s Way. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2015.

Smith, Christian, and Melina Lundquist Denton. Soul Searching: the Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Reprint ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

White, Heath. Postmodernism 101: A First Course for the Curious Christian. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2006.

Footnotes

[1] Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: a Report On Knowledge (Minneapolis: University Of Minnesota Press, 1984), 24.

[2] James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, 5th ed. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009), 216.

[3] Heath White, Postmodernism 101: a First Course for the Curious Christian (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2006), 11.

[4] Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: a Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: IVP Academic, 2011), Kindle location 721.

[5] Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason (Amazon Kindle, 2011), Kindle location 18.

[6] Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Univ Pr, 1976), 158.

[7] Jacques Derrida, The Gift of Death: and, Literature in Secret, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2008), 62.

[8] Sire, The Universe Next Door, 228.

[9] Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: an Archaeology of the Human Sciences, Reissue ed. (New York: Vintage, 1994), 342.

[10] Christian Smith and Melina Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: the Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, Reprint ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), Kindle location 3526.

[11] Sire, The Universe Next Door, 226.

[12] Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason (Amazon Kindle, 2011), Kindle location 447.

[13] Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: a Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, Kindle location 485.

[14] White, Postmodernism 101, 41.

[15] Sire, The Universe Next Door, 239.

[16] Douglas Groothuis, Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against the Challenges of Postmodernism (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2000), 48.

[17] Smith and Denton, Soul Searching: the Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, 74.

[18] Sire, The Universe Next Door, 229.

[19] Josh McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, [Rev., ed. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1999), 46.

[20] Dr. C. Fred Smith, Developing a Biblical Worldview: Seeing Things God’s Way (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2015), Kindle location 115.

[21] Groothuis, Truth Decay, 180.

[22] Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: a Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, Kindle location 795.

[23] McDowell, The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, 586.

[24] Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: a Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, Kindle location 3625.

Praying for Financial Guidance

24 Mar
March 24, 2016

3-21

In preparation for Easter, my church is doing a 31 days of prayer challenge. The other pastors, myself, and some of the key leadership all contributed short devotionals to form a booklet we’ve been giving to our congregation and emailing daily devotionals from. This is one I wrote for this past Monday on financial guidance:

Financial Guidance for Those Out of Work or Laid Off
Matthew 6:25-27, 31-33 (NLT)

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

Reflection

Some passages are harder to live out than others. It is easy to say not to worry when surrounded by security, but seasons of difficulty can test the limits of our faith and our patience. The stress from uncertain financial and career status can spill over into family life, relationships with friends, even our health. Often times we like to refer to Job, a righteous man according to God. We hold him up as a silent example of long-suffering; but when we actually read through his prayers to God, it’s shocking how blunt, how real, how deep his hurt and anger were – and yet he was a righteous man! Somehow he was able to be incredibly honest about his suffering without sinning.

This passage in the Gospel of Matthew records the words of Jesus as an encouragement to us. Our big picture can be different from God’s big picture, and Jesus gently reminds us that as much as we may worry or fear, God will take care of our needs. The challenge is in how we navigate those times of uncertainty.

Prayer

Lord, we ask for patience, endurance and peace for those impacted by layoffs and financial struggles. We pray for our church, that we will be an encouragement, blessing, and resource to those in need in our region. We ask that You would use us for Your glory. Amen.

Praying for Hurting Marriages and Families

23 Mar
March 23, 2016

3-19

In preparation for Easter, my church is doing a 31 days of prayer challenge. The other pastors, myself, and some of the key leadership all contributed short devotionals to form a booklet we’ve been giving to our congregation and emailing daily devotionals from. This is one I wrote for last Saturday, the 19th:

Hurting Marriages and Families
Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT)

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Reflection

Author and speaker Stephen Covey once said, “I am convinced that if we as a society work diligently in every other area of life and neglect the family, it would be analogous to straightening deck chairs on the Titanic.”

If we as a church work diligently in so many areas of faith, but ignore the realities of living in a broken and fallen world, and the stresses which that puts on marriages and families, we would be missing the heart of God’s vision for the church. We are one body, united together; when one suffers, we should all feel that pain. I love the challenge by the author of Hebrews to motivate one another to acts of love and good works, to encourage one another!

We need to be the type of church that is honest with one another, speaking to the challenges we have each had, so that those presently suffering feel safe in reaching out for help instead of pressure to hide and project an illusion of harmony. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we cannot turn a blind eye, but need to reach out in loving concern when God shows us cracks in each other’s facades.

Prayer

Lord, we lift up the marriages in our church, that these couples would grow in strength and love. We pray for those who are struggling that they would have the courage to reach out for help. God, help us be the type of church body that cultivates an environment that fosters honesty and being real. Amen.

Praying for Deacons

22 Mar
March 22, 2016

3-4

In preparation for Easter, my church is doing a 31 days of prayer challenge. The other pastors, myself, and some of the key leadership all contributed short devotionals to form a booklet we’ve been giving to our congregation and emailing daily devotionals from. This is one I wrote for the first week on praying for Deacons:

Deacons
1 Peter 4:8-11 (NLT)

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

Reflection

The office of deacon was created in the New Testament to take a leadership role in serving the church body, enabling the pastors to focus on prayer and teaching of the body. In many ways, the roles complement one another, working together in common vision and direction for the good of the church body. Our deacons are called to serve and help this church with all the strength and energy that God supplies, as this passage in 1 Peter describes.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” The challenges of leadership are great. Standing like a rock can come at great cost, often times without anyone knowing the depth of the challenges. That is why in 1 Timothy 2, the apostle Paul tells us to pray for our leaders.

Prayer

Lord, we lift up the twelve men that serve on our Board of Deacons. We ask that You would give them wisdom, direction, strength, clarity, joy in their service, and peace. Thank You for giving us leaders committed to our church and Your Kingdom. Amen.

Book Review: Gospel Centered Youth Ministry

21 Mar
March 21, 2016

youth ministry guideThe Gospel Coalition’s new book, “Gospel Centered Youth Ministry,” is a great resource for youth leaders and volunteers. Fourteen different authors each contributed to put together a book that sets out to address both the theological depth of the gospel and student ministry, as well as give practical ways to live that out. Where so many youth ministry resources tend to skew either only into the practical, or only into the theological, this is an exciting merging of the two.

The book is split into three sections; (1) Foundations for a Gospel Centered Youth Ministry, (2) Practical Applications for a Gospel Centered Youth Ministry, and (3) The Fruit of a Gospel Centered Youth Ministry. I appreciated the progression of the book; each of the authors were tasked with chapters that fell under those broad headings, building over the course of the book a great overview of a gospel centered youth ministry.

It is a strong work; the authors have done their research, cite their sources, and take an academic, yet very approachable methodology to their writing. They cover a wide range of topics, giving strong presentations on the underlying theology supporting their views before diving into the practicalities of living it out. Definitely a great resource for youth leaders; also a great training tool for student ministry teams and interns.

Praying for Student Ministry

09 Mar
March 9, 2016

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In preparation for Easter, my church is doing a 31 days of prayer challenge. The other pastors, myself, and some of the key leadership all contributed short devotionals to form a booklet we’ve been giving to our congregation and emailing daily devotionals from. Today’s devotional was one I wrote on our church’s student ministry:

Matthew 17:24-27 (NLT)
On their arrival in Capernaum, the collectors of the Temple tax came to Peter and asked him, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the Temple tax?” “Yes, he does,” Peter replied. Then he went into the house. But before he had a chance to speak, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Peter? Do kings tax their own people or the people they have conquered?” “They tax the people they have conquered,” Peter replied. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “the citizens are free! However, we don’t want to offend them, so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.”

Reflection
It’s incredible to think of all the disciples accomplished for God’s Kingdom. A seemingly defeated group of poor fishermen, tax collectors and others of low reputation, they led the beginnings of a movement that has grown throughout the world for two thousand years! Perhaps this is an odd choice of scripture for student ministry. It’s a passage that many scholars point to as the strongest hint we have about the age of the disciples; the temple tax was required of males over the age of twenty. Because the silver coin was only enough for Jesus and Peter, the theory is that the other eleven must have been under the age of 20 – I’ve heard some jokingly say that Jesus led the first youth group with his teenage disciples!

The Bible is full of stories of young people displaying incredible faith and accomplishing tremendous things for the Lord and His Kingdom. Some of the great heroes of the faith were adolescents! Too often in today’s culture we are guilty of setting the bar too low, of not seeing the incredible potential for leadership and spiritual gifts that God has placed in all the members of His church, including the young people!

Prayer
Lord, we pray for the students in 6th-12th grade, that they would see Your calling in their lives, that they would develop a lifelong faith, and grow as servants and leaders in our church body today. Thank You for blessing our congregation with young voices committed to You! Amen.

Why do we look up to this kind of failure?

05 Feb
February 5, 2016

behindeverymaskthereisacrosstobear

Maybe I’m too biased. I’ve seen all too close the destruction an unbalanced person in ministry can cause while being celebrated by those around them. But it pushes my buttons.

This past week I read the story of Hezekiah Smith, an 18th century Baptist “hero.” Between his work in a Baptist college, his numerous evangelistic tours and crusades, his incredible service to the Baptist church, and his pastoral giftings, he is credited with doing much to both reach the lost and expand the Baptist church, as well as make major inroads for religious liberty in America.

He would often travel for months at time, leaving his family behind to work their farm, orchard, and rental properties they owned. We don’t know much about his wife, but it would seem that she was not a fan of religion – she is described as being a “stranger” to it. He would write her letters asking if she had “yet found the comforts of true religion”.

Franklin Graham recently celebrated the legacy of Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse, two incredible organizations. Behind the scenes, though, he left a family in chaos. He spent most of his time away, and seemed to resent the handful of weeks a year he had with his wife or daughters. The emotional damage and scars he left, consistently choosing ministry over family even in times of crisis was devastating and had lasting impact.

But the church routinely celebrates these kinds of men! Their failings at home and in the care of their families are discounted because clearly, Satan attacked them harder than he would others because of their impact. These men’s failings in their families and marriages are portrayed as almost unavoidable because of their importance for God and the resulting spiritual warfare.

I think we do God a disservice if we think significant ministry accomplishments justify unbalanced lives. We ignore God’s values if we celebrate a Hezekiah Smith or Bob Pierce and instead advance the values of the world – the ends justify the means! Hezekiah’s wife resenting religion and God is a small price to pay for all the lives he reached. Pierce’s failed marriage, and destructive relationship with his children is sad but worth the children throughout the world being reached.

I’m biased. I grew up in a family where my father had decades of ministry, but in the end lost the relationships with his wife and children. I read these stories, I see the authors gloss over the failings, focus on all the good that was accomplished. It frustrates me to no end. They do it by discounting the family. They do it by ignoring the sins against these spouses and children. I don’t believe for a moment that that kind of telling honors the heart of God for ALL His children. It IS possible to do incredible things for God AND honor His sacred calling to our families. We need to as a body of believers stop celebrating unbalanced approaches to ministry.